Reds win as Votto snaps slump

Jeff Wallner, Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CINCINNATI -- Reds first baseman Joey Votto insisted his swing felt fine despite being mired in a 3-for-37 slump. On Friday night, the former National League Most Valuable Player began to see some measurable results.
"I've not been very happy with the results in this stretch," Votto said. "You're only as good as your last at-bat. I'm not going to get ahead of myself."
Votto broke out of his slump with a two-run homer and right-hander Mike Leake overcame a rough first inning to pitch seven strong innings, lifting the Cincinnati Reds to a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the opener of a three-game weekend series on Friday night at Great American Ball Park.
"You can't hold a good man down, especially a talented and determined man," said Reds manager Dusty Baker of Votto.
In the ninth, Aroldis Chapman, pitching for the fourth consecutive day for the first time this season, struck out Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, and Hanley Ramirez, all swinging, for his 35th save.
"He was electric tonight," Baker said. "He (faced) some guys who can really hit. We know we're going to play a lot of close games down the stretch. We ask him every day how he's feeling."
Leake (12-6) settled in after a rough first inning and held the Dodgers to three hits through the subsequent 6 2/3 innings, retiring 13 straight in one stretch.
"I put myself in a hole with a bad pitch (in the first)," Leake said. "I found my rhythm and started hitting my spots. It was a challenge for me (pitching against the Dodgers). You can't take any pitches off."
Los Angeles starter Chris Capuano left the game in the second inning with a mild left groin strain. The Dodgers bullpen allowed Votto to go 2-for-2 with two walks and two RBIs.
"We won't know if he'll make his next start or not," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. "We will know more tomorrow. Chris was throwing the ball good."
Ramirez hit a two-run homer into the second-deck bleachers in left field, putting the Dodgers ahead 2-0 in the first inning. His 16th home run of the year traveled an estimated 432 feet.
The Dodgers bullpen went to work after Capuano's injury in the second. The Reds were held hitless until Votto singled leading off the fourth against Stephen Fife.
In the fifth, Votto belted a two-run homer off J.P. Howell with two outs, putting Cincinnati ahead 3-2.
"It was a sinker down and in," Howell said. "He proved to me just how strong he is. He stayed inside the ball and kind of bench pressed it. That's hard to do. I knew it was trouble by the sound off the bat. I know he was in a slump but I'd rather face a guy that's 10-for-10 than someone that is due."
Dodgers right-hander Chris Withrow contributed to the bullpen's solid effort with two innings and five strikeouts.
The Reds loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth. Dodgers right-hander Brian Wilson caught a line drive off Ryan Ludwick's bat and threw to third doubling off pinch-runner Billy Hamilton, helping keep it a one-run game. But, the Dodgers couldn't rally in the ninth against Chapman.
"This is the time of year when it's tough to win games," Mattingly said. "I'm interested to see how we play this series. It's a big one. We won three out of four from them in Los Angeles but any one of those games could have gone either way."
NOTES: Dodgers OF Matt Kemp has suffered a setback, making it less likely he'll return this season. "He's not having a very good couple of days," manager Don Mattingly said. "He felt some hamstring stuff (Thursday), so he didn't hit today. I would say he's slowing his roll a little bit." Kemp has been on the DL since July 22 with a left ankle sprain. Asked if the hamstring issue could jeopardize Kemp's season, Mattingly said, "I don't like to concede anything." ... Puig made his first start since leaving Monday's game with a strained right knee. "We wouldn't put him out there if we didn't think he was good to go," Mattingly said. "He says he's good. Training staff says he's OK. So he's back." ... Reds 2B Brandon Phillips was back in the lineup after leaving Thursday's game with a left quad contusion. ... The Reds are honoring Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan throughout the weekend series. Each of the "Great Eight" members of the storied Big Red Machine teams of the 1970s, including Morgan, Tony Perez, Johnny Bench, Dave Concepcion and Pete Rose, are expected to participate.

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